2014 All-NFL Draft TeamPosted on May 06, 2014 by Will Grabill
If an expansion team was created tomorrow, and given the first 22 picks in next weeks draft, what would their team look like?
They have the option to draft the best available player at each position, but do those players skill sets complement one another?
I answer this and many more team-building question as I play GM for the NFL's newest fictional expansion team.
Quarterback: Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville
With the weapons Bridgewater will have around him, his ability to read and react on quick throws and superb accuracy are the most important parts of what my team's franchise quarterback needs.
Running Back: Carlos Hyde, Ohio St
A strong and physical back, Hyde can create his own running lanes by running over linebackers or around defensive lineman. He is one of the best blocking backs in the class as he can neutralize blitzers and hold his own in pass-protection.
Feature Wide Receivers: Sammy Watkins, Clemson & Mike Evans, Texas A&M
Sammy Watkins' speed and Mike Evans' size makes for a deadly combination for Bridgewater to throw to. Together they have all areas of the field covered, and both have game-breaking ability.
Slot Wide Receiver: Brandin Cooks, Oregon St
Cooks' elite speed and sure hands make him an ideal pass-catcher in the slot. Though he is small, he is much bigger than other successful slot receiver such as Wes Welker. Cooks is one of the few players that every time he touches the ball you have to hold your breath because there is a very real chance he takes it to the house.
Tight End: Eric Ebron, North Carolina
This is one of the easiest picks in the draft as the consensus top tight end can provide immediate value working the seam and gaining yards after the catch. There are too many offensive weapons on this team for any defensive team to even try to contain.
Offensive Tackles: Greg Robinson, Auburn & Jake Matthews, Texas A&M
These two provide a nice blend of elite pass protection (Matthews) and stellar run blocking (Robinson). This would be one of the elite tackle tandems in the league and would provide versatility and strength no matter what offensive set is being run.
Offensive Guards: Zack Martin, Notre Dame & Xavier Su'a Filo, UCLA
Compared to last years class, where 2 guards went in the top 10, this years class is significantly less talented. Zack Martin will likely be drafted to play tackle, though he projects much better to the inside. Su'a Filo is an exceptional athlete at guard and would be a great complement to the technician Martin.
Center: Weston Richburg, Colorado St
Richburg is an athletic center who does a lot well but nothing spectacularly. He could clear huge holes for Hyde in the run game and would be a very solid pass protector for this high-powered offense.
This team will run a 4-3 base defense as it highlights the best defensive players in the class.
Defensive Ends: Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina & Kony Ealy, Missouri
Clowney is the best player in the draft, so it only makes sense for him to be this teams defensive anchor as well. Ealy creates a monster tandem across from Clowney as he can get after the passer but still hold his own in the run game.
Defensive Tackles: Aaron Donald, Pittsburgh & Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota
Donald would be a top 5 lock if he had Hageman's size, and Hageman would be a high first rounder if he had Donald's motor. Here we get two very different players that both provide valuable roles along this defensive line. Donald consistently causes havoc behind the line of scrimmage, while Hageman occasionally becomes unblockable with power and explosion combination.
Outside Linebackers: Khalil Mack, Buffalo & Ryan Shazier, Ohio St
Mack is the consensus second best defender in this class, even though he played against primarily lower levels of competition. Mack is a fast and instinctual player with very good pursuit skills for being primarily a pass-rusher. He is consistently in the backfield as an explosive play-maker. Shazier is a versatile player who also stuffed the stat sheet in 2013. Shazier's good instincts and explosiveness yielded him 143 tackles, 22.5 tackles for a loss, four passes broken up, four forced fumbles and six sacks last season.
Inside Linebacker: CJ Mosley, Alabama
Though Mosley's stock is reportedly on the decline, he is still the unquestioned best ILB in the draft. He complements his excellent sideline-to-sideline range with his exceptional instincts and downhill playing style. He also plays with great energy and intensity on the field.
Cornerbacks: Justin Gilbert, Oklahoma St & Darqueze Dennard, Michigan St
Gilbert is a play-making corner who does well in man and off-man coverage. He tested very well at the combine which solidified him as an early first round pick. Dennard is a very physical corner who good instincts and recognition skills. These two have the ability to neutralize most wide receiver tandems in the league.
Safeties: Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix, Alabama & Deone Bucannon, Washington St
Clinton-Dix is a rangy free safety who is great playing a "centerfield" role as the last line of defense. Bucannon on the other hand is a hard-hitting strong safety who does very well in run-support. Bucannon may seem like a reach but this team needed an enforcer on the back-end, and that perfectly describes Bucannon's role.
This team has explosive playmakers at every position, and though they would need quite the coaching staff, this team could hold their own from the beginning in the NFL.